A “Why Didn’t I Think of That” Method for Simple, Effective Digital Nonprofit Networking

nonprofit networking

Are your nonprofit communications feeling extra challenging in this digital era? Do you feel like all of your e-mails sound the same or you struggle to reach new supporters? Then do I have a solution for you in the form of nonprofit networking!

I’ll drop the infomercial hook, but really, we are all feeling the pain of competing in an online space during a year-long pandemic. How do we make our message stand out from the dozens of other e-mails our constituents receive on a daily basis — or from the dozens of other e-mails our constituents have received from us, for that matter? The answer is we need to bring it back to human-to-human contact. This blog will teach you one simple, yet effective way to reach quality new constituents.

We’ve all been there, asking the same core group of supporters to donate or volunteer, once again. But what choice is there? During these digital times, nonprofit networking in person and expanding social circles can be a challenge. Zoom calls and virtual events have stepped in to fill the shortfall to an extent, but the reality is that it’s a different mechanic completely to get new faces into a virtual event or on your donor list these days. 

Increasing outreach to grow the email contact list is the hot topic. The pandemic has stretched all the way through the last year and seems set to continue well into this one — maybe it’s time to try a new technique! Many of us have heard of peer-to-peer methods where we source our constituents to work their network, however, some nonprofits struggle to engage their supporters in this way.

This blog post will provide a tried-and-true method for nonprofit networking to help you conduct an email drive with a difference. 

I call it the: Plus One Method

Reach out as you would to your normal list, but instead of asking them to share a Facebook post to a hundred people or their entire e-mail list, this drive is focused on finding just one new high quality new contact on behalf of the organization per email recipient. 

It’s the principle behind the “plus one” invitation. Ask the donor to take a moment to think of one person best suited to become a supporter. Everyone knows one person they can share your story to, right? If you ask a supporter to find ten fresh leads or forward your e-mail to everyone they know, they may freeze up, ignore you, and produce no new names… but ask for a single new contact and your chances, counterintuitively, increase. Your recipients may be relieved to not hear yet another financial ask and may take on this challenge with renewed vigor. It asks them to take a second to consider their own affiliation to the cause as they are delegated a task rather than asked to donate again. 

There is no question peer-to-peer drives or crowdfunding can be incredibly successful as well, but if you have found peer-to-peer difficult in the past, try this method with your contacts. Make it more personal to find more success. 

The Nonprofit Networking Plus One Method works for several reasons: 

  1. Credibility. If a person hears about your organization through someone they trust and respect, they will immediately have more trust and respect for your organization
  2. Accessibility. This type of ask – the referral ask – allows people who may not be able to donate themselves an opportunity to support your mission through time and connection.
  3. Simplicity. Asking for just one contact rather than a “mass-forward” or big post helps the person consider who might actually be a good fit as a supporter of your organization. Making it more mindful and more personal makes a major difference in result.

Blanket emails or social media posts will always be useful, and please don’t hear me say they don’t work, but this method may provide more quality connections as more intention is put into the contact.  

If we look back on our lives, how often have trusted friends put a good word in to open a door, which then allows you to prove your worth. 

The reverse is also true. How often have we given someone a shot after someone we hold in high regard vouched for the individual?

The Plus One Method is a useful stopgap between financial fundraising drives. It energizes the supporters, brings them closer to the core mission of the nonprofit and gives them the chance to make a difference on a level outside of their normal contribution.

Sometimes it’s better to have one arrow reach the target than ten which fell short! Good luck!

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at

Madison Gonzalez
Madison Gonzalez

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